A 14th-century Torah Scroll from the Iberian Peninsula, complete with mantle.
What is the Torah Scroll?
The Torah Scroll is the holiest object in Judaism. It is the physical expression of the Jewish people’s connection with God and contains the Five Books of Moses or Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). As such, the writing of a Torah scroll, its use, and storage are subject to strict rules. The smallest mistake, such as a missing letter, can invalidate a Torah Scroll, making it unfit for ritual service and public reading in the synagogue. The sacred text must be written in Hebrew without vowels and accents by a devout, expert scribe. Writing text from memory is forbidden, hence the scribe must use a book of the Pentateuch as a guide. It is made out of parchment or leather sheets obtained from the skins of animals permitted in Jewish law. Once completed, the parchment sheets are sewn together to make a long scroll, whose ends are affixed to and then wound on two wooden rollers. When not in use the Torah Scroll is stored upright in the Holy Ark, a closet situated in the front of the synagogue, usually on its eastern wall. In synagogues worldwide, the Torah Scroll is read publicly four times a week: on the Sabbath, mornings and afternoons, on Mondays and Thursdays, as well as on Jewish festivals and fast days.
This 14th-century Torah Scroll contains 262 textual columns written on seventy-five dark leather membranes. Using a reed, the anonymous scribe wrote the text in a neat square Sephardic script (originating in the Iberian Peninsula). Some of the Hebrew letters have dainty tendrils attached at the top. The right hand justification of textual columns has been perfectly achieved. Restored to its former glory, the flowery red silk brocade Torah mantle, used to protect the holy object when not in use.
View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.
- Article by:
- The British Library
An overview of the articles and British Library resources relating to Judaism
- Article by:
- Maryanne Saunders
- Sacred texts, Judaism
The Torah has central importance in Jewish life, ritual and belief. Maryanne Saunders describes what the Torah is, what it includes and how it is used in worship and ritual.